Other than the Honda badge, the two cars don't really have much else in common.
12 years between them, so it should be an easy win for the much newer car, right? Well, not exactly. Developed with input from the great Ayrton Senna, the original NSX was a proper supercar back in the day and it’s still seriously quick even by today’s standards. In the other corner we have one of the most exciting hot hatches money can buy, the Civic Type R. They’re both Hondas (obviously!) but a quick glance at the specs sheets shows some huge differences.
Taking into account it’s from its final year, the lovely NSX feature here is one of the last to be built and has a naturally aspirated 3.2-liter V6 mid-mounted engine with 280 horsepower on tap compared to pre-1997 cars that had a 3.0-liter unit with 256 hp. As for the new kid on the block, it has a turbocharged 2.0-liter mounted up front with two fewer cylinders and an extra 40 hp over the NSX. While the latter sends its power to the rear wheels, the Civic Type R delivers its punch to the front axle.
Now that that’s been taken care of, it’s time for the two to drag race. The NSX pulls ahead right away, mainly thanks to its higher-revving engine and better traction granted by the RWD layout, but the Civic Type R then closes the gap and the duel ends with a photo finish. The NSX completed the standing quarter mile in 13.5 seconds, just one tenth of a second quicker than the hot hatch.
The story was entirely different in the second duel, a rolling race from 50 mph (80 kph) in third gear. As Carwow’s Mat Wason emphasizes, torque plays an important role here. The NSX he was driving had 298 Newton-meters (220 pound-feet) available from 5,300 rpm while the Civic Type R packed a much higher 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) from a considerably lower 2,500 rpm thanks to forced induction. Despite the dreaded turbo lag as opposed to the NSX’s more linear acceleration, the hot hatch was much quicker and evened out the score to 1 all.
The decisive test was a braking test conducted at 70 mph (113 kph): the car to stop in the shortest distance takes the win. Weight is important here (among other factors), and the two are pretty close considering the NSX tips the scales at 1,392 kg / 3,068 lbs (as per the official U.K. brochure) while the Civic Type R weighs 1,380 kg / 3,042 lbs (according to the Honda U.K. website). It was a close one, and while ultimately the more modern car took the win, the NSX didn’t give up without a fight.
In the end it was 2 to 1 in favor of the Civic Type R, but we’d reckon the NSX deserves another point for its timeless design. 13 years later, it still looks gorgeous in this Imola Orange Pearl shade.
Video: Carwow / YouTube